I hate to interrupt our wonderful trip to Lesotho and leave everyone stranded in the Sky Kingdom, but Valentine's Day has arrived and … well … it's a holiday to be celebrated no matter where we are or what we're doing. We'll descend the Sani Pass tomorrow, but today … it's all hearts and roses.
Legend has it that Valentine's Day commemorates the day Saint Valentine, a 3rd century Christian bishop was martyred in Rome for marrying Christian couples. I wondered if Valentine's Day was celebrated in other parts of the world and how.
Here in South Africa, I see all the commercial signs of Valentine's Day … heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, Valentine cards, red hearts in the shop windows. It's not as commercial or as big as in the USA, but it's definitely celebrated here. I found this pic on the internet, which is probably more in keeping with Afrikaans valentines.
In Japan, they celebrate Valentine's Day with chocolate, but only women give gifts to men. Chocolates known as “giri choco” are given to all male friends and even bosses, but it has no romantic connotation. Guys aren't off the hook though. A month later on March 14, they celebrate White Day when men reciprocate with chocolates and flowers.
In Italy, they say Buon San Valentino. According to tradition, the first man a girl sees on Valentine's Day will become her husband and they'll be married within a year. I imagine that eligible men don't stray far from their homes on that day unless they're interested in matrimony.
In Denmark, the custom is to send white flowers known as Snowdrops. Lovers send anonymous love notes, gaekkebrev, signed with dots, not a name. If you guess the sender, you're eligible for an egg at Easter. What an incentive!
In Norway, Valentine's Day is associated with love birds and signs of spring. While in Germany, in addition to the more commercial hearts and flowers, a special gift of a pig can be included. Representing luck and lust, the pig can be a picture, a mini-statue or a chocolate shape. Heart-shaped ginger cookies with romantic phrases are also popular.
Dia dos enamorados (Lovers Day) is Brazil's equivalent to Valentine's Day, but it's celebrated on June 12th . There are musical performances held in addition to the usual chocolates, hearts and flowers.
The Taiwanese celebrate romance twice a year! February 14th coincides with the rest of the world's celebration, but they celebrate it again on July 7th. Men give bouquets of flowers and according to Taiwanese tradition, the color and number of flowers have special meaning … red roses represent “love”, ninety-nine roses mean “love forever”, and108 roses signify a marriage proposal.
Historically, the French claim the first Valentine card. Charles, the Duke of Orleans, reputedly wrote the first Valentine card to his second wife, Bonne d’Armagnac in 1416. He sent her a little poem and signed it “Your Valentine”.
Enough … suffice it to say, Valentine's Day or some comparable day for celebrating love is observed pretty much worldwide. As for us, we'll celebrate in our own way. We don't need flowers, or chocolates or hearts. Champers would be nice though. And how will you celebrate this year?